3 reasons your little toothbrush is a BIG problem for the planet - and what to do about it!
Despite this, there is a growing movement of people switching their regular plastic toothbrushes for more eco-friendly alternatives. There's no denying the toll that our collective behaviours have taken on the environment, over the last 200 years or so of modern living.
But what about the small, individual actions that we take daily - like brushing our teeth? What impact do our choices around dental care have on the wider world? And just how much better are the wooden alternatives to the widely used plastic toothbrushes?
First, some context.
Humankind has been using teeth cleaning implements for at least 5,500 years. Until very recently (relatively speaking), these were based on a sharpened stick that was used to scrape the teeth, and pick out any food scraps lodged between them!
What we know as the modern-day nylon and plastic toothbrush was created in 1938 by DuPont de Nemours - the chemical and manufacturing giant behind Teflon. For about 150 years before this point, boar bristles were used (not particularly hygienic or comfortable!).
Imagine, then, how popular these plastic and nylon alternatives were when they went into mass production! They were softer and easier to use, for younger and older folk alike. On top of this, because they could be produced quickly and cheaply, more people could afford this easy way of maintaining healthy teeth and a shiny white smile. Even on a tight budget, the average family could buy into the trend.
Unfortunately, now that the 'novelty' has worn off, we're seeing how these choices have directly affected our oceans and natural ecosystems, in a way nobody could've imagined back then.
3 reasons that now is the time to make the switch...
1. Wood production is more energy-efficient, and healthier.
The mass-production of plastic involves the melting/burning of chemicals, which release toxic fumes and harmful black carbon into the air; polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, and dioxins among them. These cause direct harm to all life (including us), impairing the human immune system and contributing to worsening respiratory and neurological conditions. Additionally, the toxic smog has a direct impact on our ozone layer and global warming at large.
In contrast, wood can be grown sustainably and naturally. For instance, every Beech Tree used for our toothbrushes is replanted - this is what gives the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) status. Further, chopping and shaping wood requires minimal machinery or processing to create a good quality brush handle. This is something that can be done again and again, with little impact on the Earth. In other words, it's sustainable.
2. Wood is more friendly to the Earth (after all, it grows here!).
Global plastic use has silently grown to around 380 million metric tons globally. Much of this is of a single-use kind, and even where some plastics can be recycled, in many parts of the world the facilities simply don't exist. As a result, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic waste will end up in the ocean annually. That's about as much plastic mass as 4 million cars each year, floating in the turquoise blue of our oceans.
In contrast, wooden toothbrushes can be easily recycled, or better, composted, once they have reached the end of their lifecycle. The wood simply rots back into the ground that gave birth to it.
One issue that has stopped many people from making the switch is that of the bristles. (It is a spiky problem!). Many wooden toothbrushes on the market maintain the use of BPA-containing nylon, which cannot traditionally be recycled and poses an additional threat to health.
However, the exciting thing about our Georganics Beechwood Toothbrushes is that, not only are the bristles completely BPA-free, but at the end of its lifecycle, the head can simply be snapped off and posted back to the manufacturer, for free, as part of their 'zero to landfill' scheme! They will extract the bristles to be cleaned and repurposed!
3. Wooden toothbrushes are JUST AS EFFECTIVE!
Despite being made of more natural materials, used with the same correct brushing technique, your wooden toothbrush will serve you just as well as a plastic one.
Of course, it's important to stick to the standard advice of the British Dental Association, and replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months at most, (sooner if you notice the bristles are worn or frayed, to prevent injury to your gums).
We've solved the issue of having to remember to replace, by introducing a 'subscribe and save' option, where we'll automatically send out your new toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. at a regular interval set by you. You'll also access a per-item discount on this plan, so adding in multiple products (toothbrushes for your family, toothpaste, deodorants, etc.) will spread the shipping costs and contribute to even bigger savings!
Finally, as with any natural product, there are particular recommendations for caring for your wooden toothbrush, so it serves you as long as possible. Simply, these are:
- Rinse your toothbrush well after every use
- Store it upright in an open container (not a cup) OR flat in a wire rack or bathroom shelf. This is so it can properly air dry after each use.
- Keep it away from water when not in use, to prevent moisture build-up.
What about the cost?
Making the decision on switching over is ultimately a personal one. For some who've grown accustomed to picking up a 2 pack of mass-produced plastic brushes for £1 on their regular shop - we ask you to consider whether the trade-off is really worth it.
Forget, for a moment, about the short-term financial cost. Instead, consider the long-term environmental cost. Sure, you'll spend a few pounds more each month - but when you consider the fact that the first toothbrush you ever used is still in existence, somewhere on the planet (and most likely will be, for hundreds of years!) - the difference we can make for our own children, and for generations to come, becomes crystal clear.
Some closing food for thought...
A recent survey showed that approximately 82% of UK shoppers are actively looking to buy more green and eco-friendly alternatives. People are increasingly looking to learn how they can make simple switches for products, that subsequently make a huge difference to their individual environmental impact.
The leverage effect is real: big shifts can happen when we make even the smallest changes. Sure, buying a more eco-friendly car, or taking extra care to sort your recycling each week is important. But cultivating the simple habit of purchasing and using more planet-friendly options, day to day, will create a personal and collective snowball effect; in 100 years we will no doubt all look back in astonishment at the fact that plastic was ever used in such blinkered and unsustainable way!